The critical tradition

Some things never change in literary studies. All views – to be valid – need to be based on close reading: analysis of the use of words, devices, structures. Study of these is always the basis of all criticism – and of any good student study.

Major critical milestones of the last few decades have only underlined this principle. But they have also wonderfully widened our sense of what ‘reading' can mean.

Established ways of reading the text

Chaucer's text is both a literal fiction and a work full of symbolism and ideas. That means it can be read on at least three levels:

  1. As a realistic representation of life, concentrating on Chaucer's creation of a convincing set of characters and stories in the context of an authentic pilgrimage.

    To explore this interpretation further, see:
  2. As a moral fable, emphasizing the learning journey that the Pardoner's characters and audience undertake, yet also the narrator's own blindness to moral development.

    To explore this interpretation further, see:
  3. As a criticism of social evils inherent in the medieval church.

    To explore this interpretation further, see:
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